I’m a scrounge. We joke that in my family it doesn’t really kick in until you reach 30. After that you can’t walk by a pile of junk in someone’s yard or barn or falling down house and not want to go poke through it looking for useful stuff. So, I subscribe to a “freecycle” yahoo group for my area. Rarely is there anything that interests me. But when I saw an ad for “free California and New Zealand rabbits plus cages” I jumped on it.
I was planning on raising meat rabbits in the fall. I had made a local contact (Craig’s List – rabbit manure ad) and was planning on building some cages and getting set up after the hoopla of the growing season had wound down. I’d been watching video’s on raising meat rabbits on YouTube and was thinking, “I can do this – no problem”. I had a copy of the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits. I knew what I needed and how to go about it. But then the opportunity to get started NOW at little cost was too good to pass up.
It was also too good to be true. The rabbits were fine (I’m not one for pedigree’s – I’m raising them for meat for heaven’s sake) but the cages were a joke. A giant wooden cage that we didn’t take (had chicken’s in it – long story), and a small solid bottomed cage that was falling apart. There was another guy there wanting rabbits as well, so we split the group. We both got two adult females and two babies who hopefully are at least 5 weeks old (the owner couldn’t remember how long ago they had been born – rabbits are weened at 5-8 weeks of age). It was a no frills, pieced together series of hutches (including one recycled baby crib) under the gloriously blooming apple tree kind of place.
So, $125, a crash course in cage building, and a day later, I am the proud owner of two newly constructed 30″ x 36″ wire cages, plus feed, feeders and water bottles. The cages are big enough to house a doe and her kits (baby rabbits) or 7-8 teenagers being grown up to fryer weight, which is about 5 lbs. A good rule of thumb is that adult rabbits need about 3/4 sq ft of space per lb of body weight. My adults weigh about 7 lbs each (they could go up to 10) and the babies are a little over 2 lbs.
And I have enough wire left over to make at least one more cage to put a buck (male) into. Plus the expertise with a wire cutter and a J clip tool to make more. (Wood cages, while they look nice initially, end up getting soaked in urine, chewed on, and generally are wet, stinky and disintegrating after a short time. So wire is the way to go. I’m planning on doing a rabbit tractor, ala Polyface Farms, at some future date).
Ultimately, I’m aiming for three females and one male. I plan to breed each of the females on a staggered 4 month cycle, so that there are always some young around. They can be butchered at 8-12 weeks. Rabbit meat is lean and healthy, and it is much easier to butcher a rabbit than a chicken. No feathers to deal with. Hutches will go into an unused barn stall, out of the weather, and be hung from the ceiling (makes cleaning out underneath easier – and deters predators). Oh, and can you say some of the best fertilizer $125 can buy? You betcha.
In other farmstead happenings, the now almost three-week old chicks have been move out to the shop and are now hanging out in a much larger brooder. For less than $20 for an 8 foot diameter kids swimming pool, and some left over woven wire to brace up the sides, they are now self-contained and have room to run around until they are ready to go outside. I did lose two chicks. One was blind (humanly put down) and one had a bad leg and died on its own, so clearly had other issues. But 25 are healthy and growing like crazy.
The ducks and turkeys arrive next week!
The asparagus I transplanted from Spokane is up and acting like nothing even happened less than a week later. We also got 150 strawberries and 40 raspberries (4 different kinds) planted. The first batch of peas are up and the second ones planted. Onions are in. Spinach family are in (spinach, chard, beets – several more plantings of spinach to come). Brassica’s are in (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, mustards, pac choi, arugula, radish, and kale). Carrots and parsnips are in, and rain every day has meant that I haven’t needed to water, which is fantastic. The potatoes are starting to emerge from the ground. Tomatoes and peppers are all potted up and going out into the sunshine (or rain showers ) during the day, until it’s time to plant (probably May 1st).
The lilacs are right on the edge of blooming. The flowering dogwoods are starting to pop all over town. The pear tree is putting on quite the show. It’s hard not to be positive when spring is in such full swing!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where we’re miles away from knowing enough about breeding rabbits to not just be dangerous. But how hard can it be, right?